Prius Personal Log  #185

March 14, 2005  -  March 17, 2005

Last Updated: Sat. 4/09/2005

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3-17-2005

Oil Peak.  This is not peak, neither price nor production level.  Sorry to be blunt, but things will continue to get worse before they get better.  This is why a group of us have been fighting to build momentum for the rollout of the technology Prius uses for years now.  We knew the nightmare was going to happen someday and we didn't want to just dump the problem on our children.  Don't plan on gas being cheaper than $2 per gallon anymore.  That just plain is not realistic.  The gas-price graph on this webpage clearly shows the trend we've been witnessing over the past few years... personal data 11

3-17-2005

Tachometer.  It's rather odd that the Ford hybrid comes standard with a tachometer but not a Multi-Display.  The RPM feedback can be very misleading if you don't also know what the MPG is doing.  Those that have connected a mini-scanner to their Prius agree that the feedback from RPM alone is not helpful.  Seeing RPM can cause lower MPG, since the typical person finds that data counterintuitive.  I often find new owners fighting the consumption values on the Multi-Display.  That's where the "brisk" promotion came from.  We figured out that taking advantage of the engine resulted in an overall gain, since the result of the higher RPM was the creation of excess electricity that could be taken advantage of later.  In short, having only a tachometer without having a Multi-Display too is bad idea.  The RPM data from the hybrid system has no relation whatsoever to that of a traditional vehicle.  It works far too different even remotely be thought of the same way.  Having the RPM continuously changing while cruising at a constant speed is definitely not what you'd expect.  Zero RPM while driving in stealth is though.  But what about when fuel is cut, yet the engine keeps spinning?  I bet most people without a Multi-Display will realize MPG is well over 100.  In fact, they won't have any idea that fuel consumption is different during that time.  A tachometer alone easily could lead to lower MPG, due to not understanding how the system actually works.  "Full" hybrids are far too different from both traditional vehicles and the other hybrids.

3-17-2005

More Button Appeal.  Now the new Infiniti is advertising a engine start/stop button too.  In fact, it's the very first feature you see in the commercial, just like the Lexus commercials.  That's another luxury vehicle touting the appeal of having "the button".  U love it!  That's the ultimate spite for those that claimed it had no appeal.

3-16-2005

Drilling, Biodiesel, Ethanol, and Hybrids.  Oil hit a record high today: $56.46 per barrel.  That's pretty nasty.  I wasn't even expecting the problems to start so soon.  (Of course, I didn't expect us to invade & occupy a major supplier either.)  We all know that the drilling in ANWR (Alaska National Wildlife Refuge) won't actually help the situation.  Having to wait 10 years for so little oil (especially with the population growing and road congestion rapidly getting worse) will basically only delay the inevitable.  It certainly won't reduce the need.  And it completely ignores the pollution the consumption of that oil will cause.  So who exactly wants biodiesel (a local grown alternative for diesel)?  The well-informed know that it actually increases NOx (smog) emissions, which is the opposite of what we want to do.  And it is requires additives (that obviously increase the cost) to keep it from turning to gel in the winter.  Efforts to require biodiesel are pushing B2.  That's just a 2 percent mix with 98 percent diesel.  With such a minor amount, what's the point?  E10, that's 10 percent ethanol (a local grown alternative for gas) mix with 90 percent gas is proving quite successful in Minnesota... so much so that E20 is now being discussed as realistic.  In other words, that effort paves the way expanded use of E10 in other states.  It also raises the question of which vehicles are capable of using E20.  Most automakers simply mention that E10 works just fine in their vehicles, but don't state anywhere how high the mix can actually be.  Is E20 realistic?  Lastly, why the heck are hybrids being completely ignored?  With all the discussion for energy solutions lately, why isn't reducing our consumption mentioned?  It is really starting to look like the the famous "we got our butts kicked in the 70's" situation is going to pale in comparison to what's happening now.  Rather than scrambling to catch up, they're still in denial.  With GM rapidly losing marketshare and ongoing losses being reported, they stand no chance of remaining a leader.  Ford is in deep financial trouble (again).  They stand a good chance of surviving (again) if they take advantage of their "full" hybrid design.  But their executives just don't seem to be all that interested.  And Daimler-Chrysler appears to be clueless.  So... what can we anticipated happening in the coming year?

3-16-2005

$56.46 per barrel.  That's says it all.  How high will it go?  How long will it stay at this level?  How are people going to react?

3-16-2005

30,000 Mile - Oil Change.  There's not much to say.  This one was just like the many others... just another excuse to play with the Prius.  All went by the book.  No surprises.  Though, I suppose it would be ok to point out how clean the oil still was.  5,000 miles really is too soon.  6,000 (double the old traditional standard) would actually be better.  But unfortunately, that doesn't match up with the maintenance schedule.  It could impair warranty coverage too.  So, I'll stick to the routine.  After all, I don't waste oil like that dealers do.  No overfilling in my garage!

3-15-2005

MPG Measurement.  It's hard to believe some claim keeping it simple is better.  It already is simple, and we know the confusion that has caused.  Those are two values that have no reflection of real-world results.  And that's because there's no simple way to represent the conditions people actually encounter.  We have CITY and HIGHWAY measurements.  What about SUBURB driving?  What about HEAVY COMMUTE driving?  What about DRIVING STYLE?  What about ACCELERATION RATE?  What about TEMPERATURE & HUMIDITY?  What about A/C & HEATER use?  What about EXTERNAL LIGHTS?  What about TYPE OF FUEL (grade, blend, formula, brand, level)?  What about TIRES (type, size, brand, pressure, age)?  What about OIL (type, viscosity, brand)?  What about PEOPLE & CARGO WEIGHT?  What about ENGINE WARM-UP?  What about ENGINE BREAK-IN?  See the problem?

3-15-2005

$55.05 per barrel.  We are nearing that all-time high for oil prices.  Though, with the US dollar being so weak now, the oil companies are actually making less money now than they were in the past.  The world market places greater value on other monetary units, like the euro.  That's really screwing up everything else.  It makes good deals for some and rotten ones for others.  The sense of stability we had in the past is now gone.  Everything is a mess.  All signs point to change... out of desperation.  That's not the ideal way of doing it.  But at least there's potential to get the job done without things getting too ugly.  Now it's a matter of people embracing the hybrid solution or remaining in denial.  What do you think they will do?

3-15-2005

Only 1,600.  Immediately after the announcement that only 1,600 of the 2005 Highlander-Hybrid would be available, emotions stirred.  It was pretty darn easy to see the "way so few" concern growing.  I wasn't concerned at all.  Automotive history leads me to suspect Toyota is intentionally be creating a collector's item by making so few of the 2005.  When they begin the 2006 production and how many they plan to build will confirm that.  All we have to do is wait a few months.  Time will tell.

3-15-2005

Mean Time Before Failure.  The discovery of a "MTBF" statistic for Prius raised questions.  But until a definition for "MTBF" is actually provided, there is no need for concern.  I detest how speculation gets out of hand.  In this case, the talk was about the battery-pack.  However, for all we know, it could be a simple reference to the first time it ever triggers an internal error.  That's it.  No big deal.  You'll never even know it happened.  The next time you start up, all could check out ok.  In other words, "failure" likely has no relation to "replacement" at all.  Think of it this way, it could be that "failure" is the very first time a module starts to show inconsistency with the other modules.  All that would mean is that it cannot hold as much of a charge the others.  You certainly wouldn't have to replace the entire battery-pack for that.  In fact, you wouldn't even have to replace the module either.  In fact, it wouldn't even be noticed, since only 80% of the pack is ever used anyway.  It could also be an amplified statistic caused by the sealant leak detection, where the module is just fine still but there was a minor discharge allowed by that older design.  In short, there's no need to panic.  It is probably just the way the aging process is monitored.  The expectation is that the typical battery-pack will last 180,000 is still quite realistic.  And even then, it means that it will be at a minimum capacity threshold, rather than completely dead.

3-15-2005

Back in the 50's.  Hooray!  The warm weather made a very brief appearance... photo album 92

3-14-2005

"Fat" Margins.  The domestic automakers have focused almost exclusively on the types of vehicles that provide the biggest profit margin, some call that the "fat".  Well, people are going "lean" now.  So they must too.  The computer industry used to be like that same way.  But then the bottom fell out (which is what the SUV saturation and gas prices have caused recently).  Selling a small number of premium systems became impossible.  Profit margins dropped to a tiny fraction of what they had been.  The only way to make any money at the point was to dramatically increase both marketshare & volume... which is exactly what the survivors did.  In other words, this is the beginning of the end for the gas-guzzlers.  It is quite difficult to deny now.  The signs are becoming obvious.  Just like with computers, speed & size are losing the appeal they once had. Other features are gaining attention.  And of course, people are finally starting to pay attention to MPG.  It other words, this looks just like a repeat of the 70's!  The market has changed and they got caught completely off guard.

3-14-2005

$54.95 per barrel.  Nearing that record price of oil, again!

3-14-2005

Toyota leading the way.  GM is consistently losing money.  Toyota is reporting continuing profits.  GM is still in denial about hybrids.  Toyota is impressing the masses with their hybrids.  Toyota's marketshare is increasing and GM's is slipping.  So, when GM's CEO Rick Wagoner recently conceded that Toyota could overtake gm as the world's largest automaker, it was no surprise.  We all saw that coming anyway.

3-14-2005

More Hybrids is a Good Thing.  I hear that load of nonsense far too often.  The marketers will take full advantage of that belief, slapping the "hybrid" label on every vehicle that uses a new technology... even if that new technology doesn't actually deliver much (or any) benefit.  The word "hybrid" alone is not enough.  Being vague is how misconceptions start.  People will begin to believe that anything called "hybrid" is a good thing.  The Silverado is a great example.  It provides no MPG benefit whatsoever on the highway, and it is just as dirty as the traditional design.  Unfortunately, Accord-Hybrid is almost as bad.  It doesn't offer any reduction in smog-related emissions and the efficiency gain from the hybrid system is negligible.  That's why I've been pushing for identifiers.  And the term that comes shining through as providing a proper representation of actual abilities is "full".  When you say "full hybrid", there is no misunderstanding of what the hybrid actually capable of.  That is a good thing.

3-14-2005

More Fear.  The only thing arguing semantics does is provide support for the "fearing the success" observation.  Being objective requires acknowledging the data, rather than just following what any particular group is doing.  When you do that, there is simply no way to dismiss that many component differences.  A great example of this is when you point out the 3 distinct hybrid versions of Prius, regardless of what number you assign or whether they are considered a generation.  When someone simply dismisses that entirely, it's a dead giveaway they fear you are correct.  There's lots of different reasons why.  But it all boils down to the same thing: hybrids are advancing, killing the appeal of traditional vehicles each step of the way... and even some of the less-capable hybrid designs too.

3-14-2005

Fear.  Gas was so cheap 3 years ago (just a little over $1 per gallon) that people were laughed at whenever the idea of the price doubling was brought up.  But it did!  ...and much sooner than even those worrying had feared.  Now it looks likely that another $1 will occur in the not-too-distant future too.  Some people really frightened by that impending change.  Complaining after-the-fact serves no purpose though.  That's a very odd way of dealing with the circumstances.  And only those that supported hybrids back then are entitled to an opinion about that history anyway, because they actually participated in it.  Everyone else must deal with the situation on a going-forward basis.  Remember the saying, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself"?  Think about what that means.

 

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